Oksana Masters and Shawn Morelli win gold; Aaron Keith captures first Paralympic medal
by Cady Lowery
Oksana Masters earned her ninth Paralympic medal by winning the time trial WH4-5 at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. (Photo: Casey B. Gibson/USOPC)
TOKYO - Team USA earned three medals on the first day of road cycling from Fuji International Speedway. Shawn Morelli (Saegertown, Pennsylvania) started things off for the U.S. by earning a gold medal in the time trial WC4 (39:33.79) just before teammate Aaron Keith (Woodinville, Washington) took home silver in the time trial MC1(24:55.40). Oksana Masters (Louisville, Kentucky) blazed to a victory in the time trial WH4-5 (45:40.05) to add to the medal count.
Now a three-time Paralympic champion, Morelli’s win gave her back-to-back golds in the road time trial. Keith’s silver was Team USA’s second medal on the day and the athlete’s first Paralympic medal of his career. To round out podium finishes on Tuesday, Masters claimed her ninth Paralympic medal, joining elite company as one of six Americans with summer and winter Paralympic Games gold medals.
Masters wore teammate Samantha Bosco’s uniform during her race. Bosco was previously named to the U.S. Paralympic Team but had to withdraw due to an injury while training.
Team USA notched eight top-5 finishes on the day and an additional five top 10, all time trial races. First-time Paralympian Cody Jung (San Diego, California) made his debut with a fourth-place finish in MC4 (47:09.44). Clara Brown (Falmouth, Maine) earned fifth in WC3 (26:57.28), while Jamie Whitmore (Somerset, California) came in seventh (27:20.48) in the same division. Tom Davis (Fremont, Indiana) nabbed a fifth-place finish in MH4 (41:14.12) and Freddie de los Santos (Hopewell Junction, New York) claimed a sixth-place spot in MH5 (41:37.77).
First-time Paralympian Ryan Pinney (Phoenix, Arizona) came in sixth in MH3 (44:41.34) while Paralympic veteran Will Groulx (Portland, Oregon) took fourth in MH2 (36:17.25) after he crashed on the course. Alicia Dana (Putney, Vermont) was the last racer of the handcycling divisions, earning sixth-place in WH3 (37:09.19). Just outside of the top 10 was Joe Berenyi (Aurora, Illinois) in 14th place in MC3 (42:16.36).
To round out the day, the tricycles hit the course. Matthew Rodriquez (Prescott Valley, Arizona) made his Paralympic debut and finished ninth in MT1-2 (32:39.47). Jill Walsh (Syracuse, New York) finished just off the podium in fourth in W1-2 (37:24.20) and Team USA’s Monica Sereda (St. Petersburg, Florida) ended her day with a seventh-place spot in the same division (40:48.12).
Road cycling continues Wednesday, Sept. 1 from Fuji International Speedway.
I’m glad I could perform. I just tried to stay focused on where I needed to be when. I needed to hit the targets in my plan. I liked the course, but I’m not a super technical rider. It had enough hills so I could hold my own.
I’m going to go home to spend some time with my family. I have not spent a ton of time with them the past year because if Covid and prepping for this. Now that we’re all vaccinated, I want to go spend some quality time with them. I’m really excited to see them.
The course was awesome. It has a lot of technical spots, and I liked that. My coach was yelling in my ear the whole last lap. I just did what I could. I left it all on the track. I turned 50 a couple months ago, and it’s pretty tough with these young kids out here.
The field here is incredible. The women here are so tough. This was not expected. I was just trying to hold on and fight for third place. I never thought I’d be fighting for a gold medal at all.
I’ve been dreaming about this for five years - since the day after I crossed the finish line in Rio in fifth place. I knew exactly what I did wrong, and I wanted to fix it. It just means more to me to be able to have an incredible race because of how I’ve grown as a cyclist. I had to trust my bike handling skills. I used to be such a baby in this sport. I didn’t even have a time trial helmet or anything. This is for Team USA.
Tune into NBCSN, NBCOlympics.com and Peacock for coverage of Para-cycling at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Please contact Cady Lowery (firstname.lastname@example.org) for photo and footage requests.